I went on a brief fishing trip last week. Even just two days on the water was restorative.
Something about water seeps inside to open the mind to speak more freely with the soul. Even just sitting on a bench with the dog in the morning, looking out at the jewels of light sparkling on the surface of the lake, somehow settles the chatter inside to allow truer voices to be heard.
But fishing, at least for me, adds another dimension to the water experience. The way I fish likely places me in a minority among angler-philes. I do not really care what I catch or if I catch anything at all. It is of course, a thrill when a bass strikes and for a brief moment your skill and intuition are tested. But a furious bluegill is also fun. Still, sitting atop a large and mysterious sheath over the depths, rolling with its rhythm, watching the currents, and enjoying waves with an occasional trace of creatures below, is its own reward. I would go so far as to say it is healing.
Witnessing the special beauty of fish adds joy to the healing. Pike are beautiful even though they look sinister and as if they harbor a secret that puts you at risk. Long and strong, some speckled and with teeth that look worse than they feel, catching a Northern Pike makes for a special day. Walleye, bass, even the pedestrian perch with their tiger stripes, all are amazing creatures that I could stare at for a long time if I didn’t know that being waterless was hazardous to them.
Most freshwater fish I have ever caught are beautiful in my eyes, but bluegill especially — their multicolored scales and thin, sleek curved design seems a marvelous perfection for swimming. I never cease to be without awe for fish as I work the hook out as delicately as possible, give the fish a kiss of peace, and slip the beauty back into its watery home. There was a time, not many years ago, when I thought catch-and-release fishing was a joke. Nowadays it is difficult for me to imagine doing anything else.
It is baffling that we take water for granted. Water swooshes through pipes so we receive it upon demand, flush it with an index finger, and see it suds behind the porthole of a washing machine. In the Western States taking water for granted is coming home to roost as sources of it disappear. I know people who live near one of the Great Lakes that would take up arms before allowing Arizona or Nevada to pipe Lake Michigan or Superior away.
I look at the gently rolling pastoral vineyards and dairies around Seneca Lake and wonder what kind of runoff is flowing into it through ground water, gullies, and canals. We already know the harm Greenidge Generation is doing for the sake of a failed electronic currency, but how much do we know about other sources of pollution? Part of being on the water and next to it is an acute appreciation of its life-giving and healing powers, but also its vulnerability to humans who see it only as useful. Sixty-percent of the human body is composed of water, so it is maddening that we don’t have a greater sense of mutuality with this essential substance.